Re "Fatwa on Obesity Carries No Weight," Commentary, Dec. 19: Brian Doherty criticizes Surgeon General David Satcher for overstepping his authority by drawing attention to America's epidemic of obesity. Doherty compares a campaign against obesity to the battle waged against tobacco during the past 40 years.
Is this bad? In the 1960s, close to 50% of Americans smoked. Today, because of more educational awareness about tobacco, that number has dropped to 27%. Also, due to legislation, Americans no longer have to be subjected to secondhand smoke. Lifestyle habits play a huge role in our health today, not pathogens. Education about obesity, along with smoking, alcohol, drugs, exercise and safe sex, is needed and to be applauded.
Dept. Chairman, Health Science
Cypress High School
I am surprised that Doherty of Reason magazine does not see the economic implications of obesity. As he states, obesity is a personal issue. But, when someone becomes ill or must take lifesaving medication as a direct result of obesity, it affects us all in terms of medical insurance premiums. The more illnesses suffered, the higher everyone's premiums must be to pay for the health care.
And on a personal note, as little fun as some people may have eating less and exercising more to lose weight, I just can't imagine that a heart attack, stroke or damaged knee joints would be more fun.
It's easy for Doherty to see obesity as a matter of private, not public, health--he has choices. What about kids with no parks or even safe yards nearby, whose paved-over schoolyards are locked at night, and those who have long commutes on school buses? Their PE classes in school--when available at all--may have 85 students in them. What option do we give such kids for regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight?
Private choices are also shaped by a "super-size" culture of omnipresent--and fatty--fast food, in which schools are co-conspirators. Starved for resources, many schools have become dependent on revenues from soda machines and fast-food contracts. America is selling out the health of its children to companies as eager as tobacco companies to recruit lifelong customers for the high-calorie, high-fat products that are easiest to sell--all in the name of the capitalism Doherty so admires.
Obesity is indeed a public health issue, with dangerous implications for our economy (think rising costs for Medicare and health insurance) as well as our society. The market does not care about our health.
Kudos to Satcher for using the surgeon general's bully pulpit to advocate for a leaner, healthier America!
Susan E. Funk
Regarding people upset with Satcher's stern stance against their choice to be obese: I think there is a role for leadership outside of laws and regulations. While I do not support laws and regulations in this matter, I am happy to see a government official take a leadership role in a matter of personal choice.